Two and a half days until...
Maybe a rabbit will emerge from the hat, but right now it doesn't look likely.
I watched Almanac last night. It seemed that the DFL heads of the House and Senate might have a mini-caucus and decide on a united strategy. Their attitudes about this situation seem strangely different. A strongly unified position might give them more leverage. A healthy minority is a good thing, but a legislature incapable or unwilling to override a veto seems to place too much power in the hands of the governor. Especially this one who may have delusions of being a player on the national political stage. Solving our problems on the back of an envelope at this late date is very unwise. We will be paying for these mistakes long after Governor Pawlenty has moved on to greener pastures. Minnesotans have a tendency to take it out hard on governors who mess up.
This latest behavior exposes tremendous arrogance and lack of concern for the public good.
Pawlenty hammers DFL leadership -- again
Governor's appointees offered few specifics on his plans as legislators tried to gauge his plans for line-item vetoes.
DFL leaders in the Legislature tried to catch their breath and regroup Friday, checking off several items on their legislative to-do list while struggling to figure out just how Gov. Tim Pawlenty's unilateral budget-balancing act might work.
But there was little information to extract from Pawlenty's commissioners as they sat before the Legislative Commission on Planning and Fiscal Policy, the forum that House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher has used for much of the session to grill officials of the administration.
Late Friday, Kelliher and Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller, DFL-Minneapolis, sent Pawlenty a letter clarifying their plan to erase the deficit and balance the budget. They proposed to use $1 billion in new ongoing revenues, an education accounting shift, and additional cuts as needed.
"The drama that has resulted from your press conference could have been avoided if you had talked to us beforehand," the leaders wrote. "Nevertheless, we agree that there is ample time to come to an agreement that balances the budget in the coming biennium."
The leaders and Pawlenty are scheduled to meet late this morning in the governor's office to negotiate in hopes of reaching a budget deal.
"You cannot spend more than you have, and they did it," Pawlenty said of the DFL leaders. If they don't close that gap, he said, "we'll fix it for them."
Speaking to reporters at the Capitol, DFL Sen. Tarryl Clark said Pawlenty's decision to balance the budget on his own amounts to an extraordinary power play. She argued that "these problems are too huge for him to be going it alone."
Thursday night, the governor line-vetoed $381 million from a $10.7 billion health and human services bill, money that would fund the General Assistance Medical Care (GAMC) program for 35,000 impoverished childless adults in the year starting July 2010.
The other budget-balancing tool cited by Pawlenty, called "unallotment," would allow him to cut authorized spending if it exceeded projected revenues for the next two-year budget period, starting July 1.
At one point, Hanson reviewed potential cuts to local government aid and remarked, "This is what it will look like if the governor has to act."
"It sounds like a threat, Commissioner Hanson," Kelliher said.
Brock Nelson, president and CEO of Regions Hospital, said that if Pawlenty carried through with elimination of GAMC, "the impact would be devastating."
Regions would lose $35 million in 2010 and $60 million in 2011, he said, a loss that could trigger the shutdown of services most used by those on assistance.
Burn units, mental health services and emergency services could become too unprofitable to maintain, he said.
"I've been in this community since 1976," he said. "This is the worst threat I've ever seen in my professional career."
Nothing good is going to come of this fiasco. As with the University of Minnesota, leadership matters. It will be hard to evade responsibility for this likely disaster.
Time to grow up?